Friday, December 09, 2016


Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

          There exist two miraculous images of Our Lady of Guadalupe: one in Spain, the older, and one in Mexico, the more famous.  Both are known by the same name because of some linguistic confusion.

          The original image of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Spain is an unpainted wooden statue carved in an Oriental style.  It was presented to Bishop Leander of Seville in 580 by Pope Gregory the Great.  This statue was widely revered by the people of Spain until the invasion by the Moors in 771.  At that time it was hidden for safekeeping along with some historical documents explaining its special identity.

          Those who had preserved and documented the statue died in the conquest and knowledge of its whereabouts was lost for 600 years.   In 1326 Gil Cordero, a poor cowherd, was searching for a lost cow when he saw the radiant figure of a lady appear at the edge of the woods.  The lady told him about a buried treasure and showed him where to dig to find it.  She requested that a chapel be built at that location.  Gil reported the apparition to the local clergy and brought them to the place where the lady said the treasure lay. Both the statue and its historical documents were found in perfect condition in an underground cave.

          King Alfonso built the chapel, and the statue named for the nearby town of Guadalupe was enshrined.  Soon miracles were attributed to the veneration of the statue, and the shrine became one of the most popular places of pilgrimage in Spain.  Tradition holds that Christopher Columbus visited the shrine before making his first voyage to the New World, and carried a likeness of the statue on his voyages.  The conquistadors also carried a replica of the statue with them while on their conquests in America.

          In 1531 on December 9, only 39 years after Columbus discovered the western hemisphere, an Indian convert to Christianity, Juan Diego, was crossing Tepeyac Hill near Mexico City on his way to Mass.  As he paused he heard celestial music  which he said sounded like a "choir of birds."  When looking up he saw a golden cloud arched by a rainbow.  Affectionately a voice called to him: "Juanito, Juan Diegito,"  and out of the cloud a beautiful young girl, about 16 years old and of Mexican appearance, stood before him.  She spoke to him in Nahuatl, his native dialect, and asked where he was going.  He replied that he was going to Mass and religious instruction.

          The young woman told him that she was the "Mother of the  true God who gives life."  She explained that she wanted to help the poor native Indians  and that she would like to have a chapel built on the hill so that the Indians would have a place to come to her.  At one time that hill had been the site of a shrine to the Aztec goddess of the earth and harvest, Tonantzin.  The pagan shrine had been destroyed by the Christian conquerors. 

          The Lady asked Juan to take her message to Bishop Juan
Zumarraga in Tenochtitlan, which became Mexico City.  Although 57 years old, Juan had lived his entire life in or near his native village of Tolpetlac.  He had never been to Tenochtital which was only about five miles from his home.  However he agreed to undertake the Lady's mission, even though it meant venturing into unfamiliar territory to see a person he had never met.

          At the bishop's residence the servants were amazed that a lowly Indian  would request a meeting with the bishop.  They kept Juan waiting for hours before informing the bishop that Juan was waiting.  When Juan finally spoke with the bishop, matters did not go well.  The bishop was polite, but he was clearly skeptical of  what Juan told him.  As a conciliatory gesture, the bishop told Juan he was welcome to come again to visit, if he wished.

          A disappointed Juan Diego returned to the hill and reported his failure to the Lady.   He asked that she select another messenger because he was a "nobody."  However the Lady told Juan there were others she could have sent, but she chose him.  Then she asked him to try again the following day, a Sunday.  The next day Juan returned to the bishop's residence, and again he was made to wait for hours before he was admitted.  Again the bishop listened patiently but remained incredulous.  He asked Juan to bring him a sign and then he would seriously consider seriously the request to build a chapel.

          After Juan reported another failure and the bishop's insistence on a sign, the Lady asked him to meet her again on Monday and she would give him a sign for the bishop. However Juan did not keep the appointment.  His uncle, Juan Bernardino, who had raised him from early childhood, was seriously ill.  Juan remained at home on Monday to care for his uncle.  Juan Bernardino was near death and on Tuesday asked his nephew to bring him a priest.  Upset because he had not kept his appointment with the Lady the day before, Juan chose another path to avoid the hill en route to the village.  But the Lady was aware of this and blocked his path.  She assured him that his uncle would be fine and not to worry.  She then instructed him to ascend the hill and gather the flowers he would find there.  Very little vegetation grew on that desolate hill at any time of year let alone flowers in December.  But Juan did as he was told.  There Juan found Castilian roses, which had not yet been brought to Mexico, but would be familiar to the Spanish bishop.  Using his tilma, or cloak, as an apron he gathered as many of the blooms as he could carry and took them to the Lady.  She arranged them in Juan's tilma.  Holding the edges of the tilma close to his chest, Juan proceeded to visit Bishop Zumarraga again.

          Encountering Juan Diego again at the bishop's residence, the bishop's servants tried to persuade him to leave.  But Juan Diego held his ground and expressed his determination to stay as long as necessary.  Eventually some of the bishop's staff became curious about what was in his tilma.  Juan refused to show them, and they threatened force.  Reluctantly Juan opened one corner to allow them a glimpse of the flowers and sniff their fragrance.  Immediately one of the servants rushed to tell the bishop.  The bishop asked that Juan be brought to him at once.

          Juan Diego explained to Bishop Zumarraga that the Mother of God directed him to bring the flowers to the bishop as a sign.  Juan opened his tilma and roses cascaded to the floor.  The bishop fell to his knees in reverence of the image that appeared on the cloak.  Juan also was astonished at the picture.  The bishop invited Juan Diego to stay the night, and the bishop took the tilma to his quarters to be alone with it. 

          News of the miracle spread quickly .  By morning the entire city was clamoring  to see the miraculous image.  The tilma was taken to the cathedral so that all could venerate it. 

          Though Juan Diego believed the Lady when she told him his uncle was fine, he was still anxious to see for himself.   After showing Bishop Zumarrga where the apparitions occurred on Tepeyac Hill, the two were joined by a throng of followers as  they returned to  his village. 

          Indeed Juan Bernardino was fine and had an amazing story of his own to tell.  After Juan Diego had left on Tuesday morning to find a priest, and as Juan Bernardino felt his life ebbing, a beautiful young Mexican woman appeared to him.  Immediately he felt his strength return, and he knelt before her.  The Lady told him not to worry about his nephew because she had sent him to the bishop with her image imprinted in his tilma.  She also told Juan Bernardino the name by which she wished to be remembered.

          The Spanish image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Mexican image became entwined in the popular understanding.  Neither Juan Diego nor Juan Bernardino spoke Spanish.  Their conversations and dealings with Bishop Zumarraga were conducted through an interpreter.  When the name by which the Lady wished to be called was heard by the bishop, he thought Juan Diego was trying to say "the Ever Virgin Holy Mary of Guadalupe," a name familiar to him.  Consequently that is what he called her image on the tilma.  Since the Lady spoke to these two men in their native language, it is dubious that she used the word "Guadalupe," since Guadalupe can neither be spoken nor spelled in Nahuatl because this Aztec language contains neither the letter "d" nor "g."  No Indian writings about the miracle use the word Guadalupe; they prefer Tonantizen, the name of the former pagan shrine at that spot, or other pagan names.  While the bishop never offered a correction, he was most likely aware of his error because he referred to the image as the Immaculate Conception when writing to Cortez  to invite him to join the procession to the first chapel built to house it.  Some thought the bishop made a mistake and that Juan Bernardino used a word that sounded like Guadalupe.  Earlier scholars speculated the Lady said Tequantlaxopeuh, pronounced Tequetalope, which means "Who saves us from the Devourer."   Devourer is Satan and the dreaded pagan serpent-god Quetzalcoatl to whom 2,000 Aztecs  were sacrificed each year.  Some think the word the Virgin used was more likely Coatlaxopeuh, pronounced Coatallope which means "she who breaks, stamps, or crushes the serpent.  This is reminiscent of both the winged serpent Quetzalcoatl and Satan, and recalls Genesis 3:15.

          The Indians were treated cruelly by their Spanish conquerors under the leadership of Don Nune de Guzman, who believed the Indians were not truly human and therefore unworthy of evangelization.  To him the Indians were soulless and deserved to be exploited.  Neither did Bishop Zumarraga and his associates have a high appreciation of the Indians, but they did believe that because the Indians had the ability to reason they could attain salvation through baptism.  For this the Indians were accorded a degree of respect.  On the other hand, most Indians had no interest or desire to give up their own gods in favor of the God offered by the Spaniards.  Juan Diego and Juan Bernardino were clearly exceptions.  Fearing an Indian rebellion, the bishop sent a message to Charles V begging that Guzman be replaced.  Charles agreed with Zumarraga, but the distance between Spain and Mexico delayed the replacement.  The Lady, however, was prompt.  Her apparitions and the miracle of the tilma were the turning point in the Christianization of the Indians.  The Indians recognized signs and symbols in the picture on the tilma that were meaningless to the Europeans.  As a result eight million Indians were converted in the seven years following the apparitions.

          The first chapel where the tilma hung took only 13 days to build.  Juan Diego was appointed custodian and lived in an adjacent lean-to shelter.   

For 17 years until his death in 1548 he greeted pilgrims and explained his experience.




Thursday, December 08, 2016


Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

          At the beginning of the liturgical year we honor the immaculately conceived Virgin Mary. The solemnity of Mary’s Immaculate Conception is celebrated on December 8, and honors the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, without original sin.   

          In 2008 we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Blessed Virgin’s apparitions at Lourdes, where she identified herself to St. Bernadette as the Immaculate Conception.  In 2004 we observed the 150th anniversary of Blessed Pope Pius IX’s solemn definition of this dogma on December 8, 1854.  Blessed Pius IX explained that Mary was preserved from original sin by a “singular grace and privilege” given her by God “in view of the merits of Jesus Christ,” Redeemer of the human race.  Mary, like every other human being, needed the redemptive benefits of Christ.  But in anticipation of what God did for all through Christ, she alone was preserved from original sin “from the first moment of her conception.”  As one writer asserted, hers was a “redemption by exemption.”  By her Immaculate Conception she was conceived in the fullness of grace, in the state of closest possible union with God in view of her future role as the Mother of the Redeemer.

          The feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary was celebrated already in the seventh century in Palestine as the Conception by St. Anne of the Theotokos (Mother of God) on December 9.  The doctrine is understood differently by some Eastern Christian Churches because of a variance in their theological understanding of original

sin.  The observance spread west from Constantinople.  Still called the Conception of St. Anne and observed on December 8, it was prominent in Naples in the ninth century; in English monasteries in the eleventh century, when it was called the feast of the conception of Our Lady; and in France in the twelfth century.

           When the feast was introduced in France, St. Bernard of Clairvaux opposed it, igniting a controversy that endured for three centuries.  Most Scholastic theologians, including St. Anselm of Canterbury, St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Bonaventure opposed the doctrine on the grounds that it detracted from the universality of the redemption by Christ.  But it was defended and explained with theological clarity in the thirteenth century by Blessed John Duns Scotus, a Franciscan.  In 1263 the Franciscans adopted the feast.

          The opponents of this feast and doctrine had argued that Mary had to be touched by original sin for at least an instant, even though she was sanctified in her mother’s womb.  John Duns Scotus resolved these objections by explaining that Christ can save and redeem in two ways: he can rescue from sin those already fallen; or he can preserve one from being touched by sin even for an instant.  Mary was granted “redemption by exemption.”

          The Council of Basel in 1439 affirmed this belief.  Ten years later the Sorbonne in Paris required all its degree candidates to pledge an oath to defend the Immaculate Conception of Mary.  Pope Sixtus IV in 1476 approved the feast with its proper Mass and Office, and in 1708 Pope Clement IX extended the feast to the universal Church and made it a holyday of obligation.

           Later the Council of Trent (1545-1563) explicitly declared that Mary was exempt from the taint of original sin.  From then on the belief was embraced generally and defended by all schools of

theology.  Many Catholic thinkers and founders of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries promoted and expounded Mary’s Immaculate Conception with special interest and verve, and this doctrine became an important part of many Marian spiritualities.  One such exponent was Blessed William Joseph Chaminade (1761-1850), founder of the Marianists. 

          At the First Council of Baltimore in 1846 the Catholic bishops of the United States of America chose Mary under the title of her Immaculate Conception as the patron saint of the nation.  This deepened interest in the vast new country.

          The apparition of Mary Immaculate to St. Catherine Laboure in 1830 at Paris had also advanced this devotion.  At that time Mary asked the young nun to produce the Miraculous Medal, which honored the Immaculate Conception.  And the solemn definition in 1854 was the culmination of this development.  Like an additional seal of approval on the definition four years later Mary appeared to the uneducated and sickly youngster, St. Bernadette Soubirous, at Lourdes.  When Bernadette asked the Virgin Mary on March 25, 1858, to identify herself, Mary replied, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

          In 1863 a new Mass and Office were composed for the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.  This feast is also celebrated as the Conception of Mary by the Church of England.   Among the Eastern Christian Churches the feast of the Conception by St. Anne of the Most Holy Theotokos continues to be observed on December 9.  The date set for this feast is nine months before the Birth of Mary on September 8. 

          To celebrate the centenary of the definition of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, Pope Pius XII, a devout apostle of Mary, declared 1954 a Marian Year -- the first.


          Now, more than 150 years later, we are privileged to continue to honor that solemn definition  of Mary's "redemption by exemption" and its recognition by Mary Immaculate at Lourdes.   

          “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.”


Monday, October 10, 2016


         Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

          Why did Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) want to sail and explore? What motivated the Italian explorer, celebrated as the discoverer of America, to lead a crew of ninety men across the uncharted Atlantic Ocean more than five centuries ago? In our times his motivation is being questioned again.  Some have tried to demean his name and character, making Columbus a figure of controversy and raising doubts about his integrity.  Now we are faced with conflicting opinions about his legacy.  What do we know for certain about the religious motivations for his voyages?

          In the past Christopher Columbus was an example of the understanding that there is no contradiction in being a Catholic and an American.  For that reason Father Michael McGivney chose him as the namesake of the Knights of Columbus. 

          Intrigued by this question and Columbus’ motivation, Carol Delaney decided to delve into the background with scholarly aplomb.  A cultural anthropologist and longtime professor at Stanford University, Delaney devoted the entire summer of 2003 to researching Columbus at Brown University.  Two years later she resigned from Stanford to concentrate on this research.  The results of her thorough study have been published in book form: Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem (Free Press, 2011).

          Upon release of her book she discussed some of the highlights of her findings about the purpose of Columbus’ voyages.  Thanks to the exacting research of Carol Delaney, we have a truer and fuller appreciation of this genuine hero of history.


          Dr. Delaney explains that it is common knowledge that Columbus was hoping to find gold, but his reason was not understood.  Columbus  wanted to help finance a crusade to free Jerusalem from the Muslims before the end of the world.  In his time many thought the apocalypse was imminent because of various signs: the plague, famine, earthquakes, and similar occurrences.  It was a popular belief that  before the end of time Jerusalem must be returned to the Christians so that Christ could come in judgment.  Columbus had actually calculated the number of years left before the end of the world.  He considered his plan as a mission.


          Columbus was also very interested in evangelization.  He kept extensive notes and wrote many letters, and in these writings indicated that the peoples of the new lands could not be quickly baptized and automatically become Christian. They needed to be instructed clearly about the faith before being converted.  To this end he wrote to the pope requesting that priests be sent to the newly discovered peoples for their instruction.  He even left money in his will to be used for this.

          Recall that Columbus believed he was sailing to Asia, and he wanted to convince the Grand Khan of China, who had expressed interest in Christianity, to convert.  He thought the Grand Khan might join the crusade to re-take Jerusalem by marching from the east, while the Europeans closed in from the west.  This is quite an interesting concept.


          Unfortunately many do not recognize and understand Columbus’ intentions.  The evidence had not been widely studied, nor was it readily accessible.  Scholars had written about Columbus’ religious motivations, but their findings were published in arcane journals.

          In the 19th and early in the 20th centuries historians described Columbus as one of the first to use science and reason as an explorer.  But that was not the basis of his motivation.  He was a medieval man in a religious context.  Columbus was closely associated with the Franciscans, who had assisted him and who were noted for their missionary activity.

Respect for Natives
          It is a grossly incorrect and unfair assessment on the part of some to say that Columbus was responsible for a variety of atrocities against the native peoples.  Erroneously, especially in the 20th century, the brunt of all that went wrong was attributed to Columbus.  But the falsehood of such accusations is evident from his own writings and the records of his contemporaries.  Those records show that his relations with the natives were benign and respectful. He described them as “natural Christians” because they had no other faith and were open to become Christians after proper instruction.  

          Columbus sternly warned his crew not to maraud, rape, or otherwise abuse the native people.  His writings offer many examples of instruction to this effect.  Most of the times when injustices occurred, he was not even there. And it is absurd to blame him for diseases communicated to the natives by the Europeans. 

          Columbus’ notes record that many crewmembers did not like the restrictions and rebelled, that they assumed they could have slaves, pick gold from the trees, and need not work. 
          Columbus never had slaves, nor did he intend to obtain slaves from the lands he visited.  Of course this would never have happened with the Grand Khan and his people in China.  Columbus wanted the natives  he met to become subjects of the Spanish sovereigns. 

          After the second voyage when they had encountered a different group of natives whom they thought were cannibals, Columbus’ brother sent some of them to Europe.  At that time in history it was considered morally acceptable to enslave people who acted against human nature because the captors hoped this would help them become good Christians.  While slavery was then common, some mistakenly think Columbus instituted slavery. 

Columbus’ Writings

          Carol Delaney read and studied all the extant writings of Christopher Columbus.  Although his original diary no longer exists, two reliable copies survive; these were in the possession of Bartolome Las Casas, an admirer of Columbus, and Columbus’ son, Ferdinand.  Consistently his writings express respect for the native people and concern for his crew.  Also evident is his devotion to his sons and his care for the women in his life.  While many are unaware that Columbus wrote anything, Dr. Delaney says she liked the tone of his letters and notes, and this advanced her admiration for him.  In addition to his faith, she was also impressed with his patience.

          Columbus planned and waited more than ten years before embarking on his first voyage. When his petitions failed with the Portuguese, he turned to the Spaniards.  The authorities rejected  his proposal three time, yet he persisted.  He firmly believed he could do it.  Then he exhibited tremendous courage in crossing the ocean in small wooden ships with nothing more than a compass to guide him.

Failure or Success?

          Dr. Delaney expressed the opinion that Columbus died thinking that he had not accomplished what he set out to do.  He was disappointed that King Ferdinand did not pursue the crusade, and he realized that some serious crimes had been committed.  From this point of view, he felt his quest was a failure.  But in reality, Delaney declares it was a major accomplishment.  Columbus crossed the ocean four times in small sailing craft and without the benefit of modern navigational instruments.  He discovered the New World, even though he thought he found only the periphery of Asia.

          No wonder, then, that in the late nineteenth century Venerable Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights of Columbus, chose the intrepid admiral and evangelizing explorer as model for the fraternal order of Catholic gentlemen.  His admiration is expressed on page one of the May 25, 1878, edition of the Connecticut Catholic: “As American Catholics, we do not know of anyone who more deserves our grateful remembrance than this great and noble man – the pious, zealous, and faithful Catholic – the enterprising navigator, and the large-hearted sailor, Christopher Columbus – ‘the Christ-bearing dove’ as his name signifies.”

Friday, September 30, 2016


Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

Origin of the Rosary
          The Rosary, the blessed beads that quietly slip between our fingers as we pray over the mysteries of Jesus’ redemptive life, has an ancient origin.  Most likely it originated in the ancient East and not in the medieval West, perhaps in India.  It was and still is a popular prayer device among the Muslims, who use the Arabic term masbahat , which means to give praise.  Devout Muslims used the masbahat  in repeating the attributes of God, just as it was used by the early Christian hermits.  Following the Crusades the Rosary found its way to the West.  The missionary who worked hardest to spread this devotion was Saint Dominic, and his Dominican companions.

          The Rosary became a popular method of prayer and spread quickly in the West during the Middle Ages.  For Christians it has always been “the Gospel strung on beads.”   It is a simple and easy prayer that can be employed for vocal prayer or silent contemplation by individuals, families, and communities.

Papal Encouragement
          Since the 16th century the popes have frequently encouraged the faithful of East and West to pray the Rosary.  The first was a Dominican pope, Saint Pius V, who wrote a papal letter about the Rosary in 1569 shortly after the Council of Trent, and instituted the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

          In the late 19th century after the First Vatican Council the illustrious Pope Leo XIII wrote more than ten encyclicals and instructions promoting the use of the Rosary.

          To make pastoral applications of the Marian teachings of the Second Vatican Council Pope Paul VI in 1974 authored the apostolic exhortation Devotion to Mary (Marialis Cultus).  Paul VI discussed the Rosary at some length as a summary of the Gospel comprised of prayers based on Gospel texts.  He urged the faithful to pray the Rosary, and especially recommended the family Rosary in these words:

                   “We would like now to join our voice to the voices of our
                   predecessors and strongly recommend the prayer of the
                   Rosary in the family…because the Christian family is a
                   family church….  If the family neglected this communal
                   prayer, it would lose its character as a Christian family.

                   In addition to the prayer of the Divine Office (Liturgy of
                   the Hours) …the Rosary of the Virgin Mary would be the
                   most preferable communal prayer for the Christian family.”

Pope Paul VI concluded his recommendation by saying: “We would like to repeat that the Rosary is an excellent and magnificent prayer….”

           Pope St. John Paul II, enthusiastic devotee of our Blessed Mother, in 2002 issued  a pastoral letter entitled The Rosary of the Virgin Mary, in which he proclaimed October 2002 until October 2003 the Year of the Rosary, and put forth the Luminous Mysteries based on the public life of Jesus. 

          Pope Benedict XVI, valued the prayer of the Rosary as a means of contemplating Jesus with Mary’s eyes.  For him pondering the mysteries of the Rosary calms a “restless spirit, allows the soul to settle into tranquility…and grants a vision of God.”  He associates the Rosary with consolation and healing, an inner refuge which enfolds us “in the rhythm of the prayer of the whole Church.”  “I do it quite simply,” he said, “just as my parents used to pray.”

The Rosary Today

          Early on, the Rosary was a common method of prayer in the East among Christians and non-Christians.  Even though it came to us through Western missionaries, it was and still is an easy and rich method of prayer to help the faithful fathom the mysteries of God along the journey of salvation.  And we do so with a special companion, the Mother of God and our Mother.  Praying the Rosary, particularly in the family, is an excellent method of bringing us together in the faith under the protection of her who always and everywhere intercedes for all people.  Let us spare no effort to remain close to her.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta - Interview

Saint Mother Teresa, pray for us!

Please watch this wonderful interview with our newest saint and Malcolm Muggeridge.  They were interviewed by Father James Lloyd for the television program Inquiry, in 1971.

Click here for video

Monday, August 29, 2016

Novena - Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Picture source

Please join the Missionaries of Charity in praying the novena to soon to be Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  The novena started on August 27th but if possible, join in today.


f I ever become a Saint—I will surely be one of
“darkness.” I will continually be absent from
Heaven—to light the light of those in darkness
on earth
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

Dear Friends
May the Peace of Christ fill your heart as you place all your trust in Him.
I would like to invite you to pray with us the novena to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Feast day on September 5, which starts on 27 August. Pray with us the novena to Blessed Teresa

Please know that we keep you and your intention is our prayers very especially during this novena.
Let us also implore God for the peace in the world for all famines and all those who suffer from natural disasters  and for an end to abortion and euthanasia and a respect for every human life.
God bless you always
United in prayer
Sincerely yours in Jesus
Sr. M. Elia, M.C.


Just think that God is thirsting for you ....Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
I would like to invite you in this coming weeks  to enter more deeply into the mystery of Jesus’ thirst and to satiate that thirst according to the example of Mother Teresa. On the 10th September will be the anniversary of Mother Teresa’s mystical encounter with Jesus, later called “Inspiration day” within the religious family she founded. We invite you, to join us in preparation. So that we, with St. John, “come to know and to believe in God’s love for us,” (1 Jn. 4:16) “Faith, which sees the love of God revealed in the pierced heart of Jesus on the Cross, gives rise to love. Love is the light – and in the end, the only light – that can always illuminate a world grown dim and gives us the courage needed to keep living and working. Love is possible, and we are able to practice it because we are created in the image of God. To experience love and in this way to cause the light of God to enter into the world …” (Encyclical Letter Deus Caritas Est January 25, 2006 Pope Benedict XVI) – this is the invitation Mother Teresa extends to us. Through these following meditations we invite you to enter more deeply into the mystery of Jesus’ thirst and to satiate that thirst according to the example of Mother Teresa, thus illuminating the world with His love.
        For this please visit:

Monday, August 15, 2016

Mary's Assumption Pertains to Us

The Assumption of Mary by Paolo Veronese (Caliari)
Picture source

Happy Feast Day!

by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

            Like every doctrine of faith, Mary's Assumption into heaven body and soul is about us too.  Mary is our model in faith, charity, and perfect union with Christ.  She teaches us  how to live in a faith-filled and loving way. 

            Mary's Assumption teaches us how to live with hope even in dying, how to anticipate our eternal destiny.  The Solemnity of the Assumption, observed on August 15, celebrates the completion of Mary's transformation by the Holy Spirit, being taken to heaven not only in soul but also in body.
            Mary's Assumption brings us hope because it reminds us that what happened to Mary is our destiny too.  The Preface of the Mass declares that the Assumption is "the beginning and the image of Your Church's coming to perfection and a sign of sure hope and comfort for Your people."

            We are the Church.  Mary's bodily assumption is a harbinger of what will happen to us.  What God has done for Mary gives us hope and comfort in what He will do for us. 

            St. Paul reminds us that even in this life believers are already being transformed into the image of Christ.  "All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory as from the Lord who is Spirit" (2Cor 3:18).  This transformation affects not only our souls but also our bodies.  "...we groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies" (Rom 8:23).  Our bodies will be conformed to the body of Christ.  "He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorious body by the power that enables Him also to bring all things into subjection to Himself" (Phil 3:21).  This transformation results from Jesus' victory over the power of sin and death in His own death and Resurrection.

            The opening prayer for the August 15 Eucharistic Liturgy asks that "always attentive to the things that are above, we may merit to be sharers of her glory."  Living in tune with God as Mary did, we will also undergo the transformation of both our souls and our bodies. 

            The post communion prayer requests that "through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whom you assumed into heaven, we may be brought to the glory of the Resurrection."

            When celebrating the Solemnity of Mary's Assumption in 2010 Pope Benedict XVI offered this clear description in his homily.  "...the Mother of God is inserted to such a degree in the mystery of Christ that she shares in the resurrection of her Son with her whole being already at the end her life, she lives what we hope for at the end of time...."  

            While admiring Mary in her glorious destiny, we are invited to recognize that the loving Lord has willed for our final destiny to live through faith in perfect union with him. 

            Our predecessors in faith professed their firm hope in "the resurrection of the body" in the Apostles Creed and in the Nicene Creed.  We rarely think about the resurrection of our bodies.  Yet this article of faith greatly encourages us, comforts us at the death of loved ones, and raises our awareness of the value of our bodies. 

            The Assumption of Mary vividly reminds us that our lives have a special destiny with God.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Our Lady's Bird is Our Lady Bug

Picture source

Nice way to honor Our Lady on her day.

by Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.

          What insect has such a colorful and fascinating history as the ladybird, also known more popularly as the ladybug?  In an age of faith when people saw earth mirroring heaven, this tiny creature was thought to enjoy the special protection of the Virgin Mary.  Reversing its role in the last two centuries, this small symbol of Our Lady burst into prominence as a protector of people and their food supply.  As the enemy of aphids, the ladybird has rendered service calculated in the billions of dollars in the past century alone.  We have good reason to be grateful for this little beetle and to the Lady for whom it is named.

A problem of infestation

          Agricultural specialists first became interested in the ladybug when California orange groves were mercilessly attacked by a voracious insect pest in the latter half of the nineteenth century.  Already in 1880 agricultural experts discovered that a parasitic insect was infesting some orange trees in California’s Santa Clara Valley.  The infestation was known locally as “San Jose scale.”  Eventually it was traced to the flowering peach trees imported from China.  These trees were infected with tiny sap-sucking insects until then unknown in the western world. 

          The deadly visitor insect from Asia found the orange trees a delicious victim and spread quickly.  They multiplied so rapidly that they became a mortal threat to the citrus industry in all of California.  By 1893 horticulturalists were occasionally finding specimens along the Atlantic seaboard.  Five years later the havoc wreaked by these aphids was so grave that the German emperor forbade the importation of American fruits and living plants.


Finding an antidote

          In the meantime, the Department of Agriculture had its specialists launch a counterattack.  They tried a variety of pesticides, but with little success.  Orange trees were dying by the hundreds of thousands.

          Mr. C. V. Riley, chief entomologist of the Department of Agriculture, suggested that aphids could be controlled by introducing other insects which would prey on them.  In 1890 such a proposal seemed radical and preposterous, and drew scoffs even from close associates.

          But that did not daunt C. V. Riley.  Working against indifference and opposition, he was determined to find a creature to attack the aphids devastating the citrus trees of the nation.  He learned that aphids caused little harm in Australia, and concluded that some natural enemy was keeping them under control. 

          Mr. Albert Koebele was dispatched to discover that foe of plant lice.   He concluded that a variety of the harmless ladybug beetle was the antidote.  Gathering ladybugs from Australian plants by hand, Koebele shipped 140 of these plant-saving beetles to an associate in Los Angeles.  When set free in an infested orange grove on trees covered with gauze screens, the ladybug liberators cleared these trees of scale within a few days.

          More ladybugs were imported, and California scientists began to raise them in wholesale quantities.  In California citrus groves they brought cottony-cushion scale under control within two years.

          Following this success, this variety of beetle was introduced to more than thirty countries.  Without exception they reduced or eliminated that damage of scale insects which infest citrus trees.

          So dramatic and conclusive was the ladybird experiment that it marked a turning point in scientific agriculture.  From that time hundreds of experiments have been made to find insects which would control insect pests and noxious plants.  Economic entomology, now a major operation in several countries, is an outgrowth of the ladybird experiment to salvage California’s orange-growing business.

Significance of the name

          The ladybird, or ladybug, rose to the rescue as the protector of the human food supply.  Although this was a new role for the colorful beetle, the bright insect had been well known for centuries.

          How did it become known as “Our Lady’s Bird?”  No one seems to know exactly.  In Elizabethan times many common creatures were attributed names with a sacred association.  Such names were usually local in character.  In the case of the ladybird, another factor came into play.  Not only was it a colloquial name employed in a few areas of England, but it found its way into many languages in forms closely related.

          In German the tiny critter was called Marienhuhn (Mary’s chicken), Marienkafer (Mary’s beetle), and Marienwurmschen (Mary’s little worm).  Marienkuh was an earlier form related to the English “lady-cow.”  The Swedes used the name Marias Nyckelpiga, and the farmers still call the insect “the Virgin Mary’s golden hen.”  A slightly different tack is taken in French and in Spanish.  In these languages the names link the insect with the protection of God.  The French call it la bĂȘte a bon dieu (God’s animal), while the Spanish use the name Vaquilla de Dios (God’s little cow).

          Both coincidence and cultural exchange fall short in explaining so widespread a view concerning an insect.  Scientific names in Latin are common to many nations and languages.  But it is extraordinary for folk names to be so closely parallel.  Why should people in so many different lands envision the ladybug as enjoying heavenly protection, especially that of Mary?

          Here is the most reasonable guess.  Persons who have grown up in rural areas know that birds and animals almost always leave the ladybird strictly alone, for the ladybird is proficient in chemical warfare.  It produces a yellowish fluid which it discharges in time of danger.  Though seldom noticed by the blunted human sense of smell, this serum is highly repulsive to foes of the ladybird.  Consequently the bright bug goes about its business with virtual immunity from attack.

          Amazed at the beetle’s sheltered and protected life, the human observers probably concluded that it enjoyed the special favor of the Lady whom they themselves venerated and whose assistance they sought.  It seemed natural to call the insect Ladybird.  One might also conjecture that people saw a similarity in the creature’s charmed life to the preservation of Our Lady from sin.  In the England of that time the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception was a popular belief and prominently discussed.  English dialects included variant titles like Lady-beetle, Lady-clock, and Lady-cow.  Standardization of speech erased these names, and gradually the capitalization of the first letter was discontinued.  Now only the scholarly reader continues to find in this insect’s name a reference to earlier reverence and Marian relation.

          Farmers of Elizabethan England may not have understood clearly the economic significance of the ladybird, but they knew that it fed on other insects.  Hops, long a major crop, are vulnerable to the attack of plant lice.  Ladybirds abound in hop fields.  They were probably observed in action more closely than the lack of written descriptions would indicate.  Not until 1861 did scientific records mention that ladybirds feed on the aphids which infest hops.

          Folk literature preserves some clues.  One is the fact that even today the children of many lands know some form of this rhyme.

Ladybird, Ladybird, fly away home!
                   Your house is on fire,
                   Your children do roam.
                   Except little Ann, who sits in a pan
                   Weaving gold laces as fast as she can.

Children recite that rhyme after a ladybird has been placed on an outstretched finger.  This practice has changed little through the centuries as indicated by a woodcut which dates from the reign of King George II.  The woodcut depicts a child addressing a ladybird before flight.

          Having more rhyme than reason, the jingle’s significance is clearer in view of its historical setting.  Farmers often gathered hop plants and burned them when the harvest was finished.  Ladybirds swarmed and children enjoyed warning the little birds to flee from danger.  “Little Ann” was the name for a young grub of the ladybird attached to a leaf and shedding its skin, or “weaving gold laces.”

An important function

          When scientists determined that the ladybird is a natural foe of many plant parasites, they began raising them in special insectaries, especially along the Pacific Coast of the United States, since this region experienced the most devastating attacks by aphids and scales.

          Experts opine that the ladybird will never become obsolete and outlive its usefulness for agriculture.  The life-saver beetle is more efficient for many operations that any pesticide yet devised.  Those reared under natural conditions are more abundant and important than those produced by insectaries.  In the United States alone at least 350 varieties have been identified.  The protective work of the ladybird is responsible for a huge saving annually for the country’s farm economy.  Without it, growers would be at a loss to produce substantial crops of needed fruits.

          With no inkling of its significance in their own era or its future role in world agriculture, medieval farmers reverently named the little beetle Our Lady’s Bird.  How appropriate that the creature so named became a protector of our food supply and the symbol of a branch of applied science.  Eyes of faith allow us to see that Our Lady’s Bird is in fact a messenger from a provident God.